Vodafone cops ads rap over Martin Freeman's vanishing spaceship

Thou shalt not use sync speeds instead of throughput speeds, decrees Brit watchdog

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Vodafone was today slapped by the Advertising Standards Authority for quoting router sync speeds instead of throughput speeds in its advertising following a complaint from rival BT.

The ad featured Hobbit star Martin Freeman engaging in some mild consensual online gaming action interrupted by a broadband-induced failure. Here's a vid from the campaign...

Youtube Video

Vodafone's website also stated: "Guaranteed Speeds on your Superfast home broadband or money off until it's fixed."

ASA investigators (the "authority" is in fact a private self-regulation company based in London, England), probing complaints from BT and a handful of others, said that Voda told them it "chose to use sync speed, the speed received by a customer's router, as a measurement because it was the speed that both they and Openreach were able to exert control over, and stated that their website explained how the guarantee worked, what the minimum speed was that should have been achieved and what to do if it was not received."

Unimpressed, the ad men themselves said: "We considered that consumers were unlikely to know the technical definition of 'sync speed', or how it differed from throughput speed, which was the more appropriate measure of the speed they would experience when using their home broadband."


Sync speed is the theoretical max speed that a particular combination of a specific cabled connection and router can achieve. Throughput speed is the real-world maximum once realistic physical limitations and the like are taken into account. Voda was promising sync speeds of above 25Mbps for its Superfast 1 package and 55Mbps for its Superfast 2 offer, along with a promise to knock 15 per cent off bills if those promises weren't met.

"We were concerned that any guarantee based on sync speeds, which were not an accurate measure of the speeds experienced by customers on their devices, was likely to result in some customers experiencing problems associated with slow speeds but still not qualifying for the guarantee," intoned the ASA on as it banned Voda from running the "misleading" ad again.

In a previous complaint driven by commercial rivals, Vodafone was cleared of exaggerating its network's capabilities in another ad with Martin Freeman. In that, Freeman and a companion called the police (using a phone on Vodafone, natch) during a robbery in an underground car park, with the tagline: "Outstanding indoor coverage on our most reliable network ever." ®

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